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China to Reassess Food Safety Supervision System
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The Chinese government is reassessing the way in which it supervises food safety in order to improve the efficiency of the current system, a senior quality control official said on Friday.

Li Changjiang, minister in charge of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), said that various government departments are responsible for food safety in China. The government is reassessing the current supervision mechanism, he said, adding new measures will be taken to enhance supervision after sufficient investigations and studies are made.

The existing food supervision system involves at least five central government departments - AQSIQ, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and the State Food and Drug Administration - which are responsible for supervising farming, production and processing, and distribution and selling.

New laws should be made to facilitate cooperation among different government agencies in order to change the overlapping food supervision system, Vice Health Minister Wang Longde said earlier this month.

Li said China was endeavoring to tackle its food safety problem in a comprehensive way.

"To ensure the quality of food exports, the Chinese government has set up a monitoring system that covers plantations, breeding farms and production bases," said Li. "Only products that pass strict quarantine inspection are allowed to be exported."

With the United States only running random checks on imports at all its ports, AQSIQ was exchanging views with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the hope of ensuring food safety on the basis of effective supervision by each side, said Li.

"Food safety is not an issue of a certain nation, but a global issue," said Li, adding that China had established cooperation on product safety mechanisms with a lot of countries and regions, including the European Union, the U.S., Japan and the Republic of Korea.

In the first half of the year, more than 99 percent of the Chinese foods exported to the U.S., the EU and Japan were up to standard. "But we do have a number of problems in food safety as a lot of small manufacturers run in poor production conditions, with unstable product quality," said Li.

The government would strengthen monitoring of small workshops, which were widely scattered and had a 10-percent market share, and ordered shutdown of those producing substandard and fake food, said Li.

The quality control official, who blasted foreign media for exaggerating food safety problems earlier this week, also said he "welcomes scrutiny from the media" as the government told officials to listen to media suggestions, which was believed to be helpful for the government to improve its work.

The government pays great attention to addressing flaws in product quality, especially the quality of food products, said Li.

China has long had the tradition of taking samples of staple goods and products concerning health and environmental protection for examination and announcing the results to the public.

(Xinhua News Agency July 21, 2007)

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